Friend, you may have noticed a couple of small changes to this website since the last review was posted. Two changes, to be precise. Well, one is in two parts, but that’s neither here nor there. The first, is that I have rebranded! I’ve decided to go with “The Warbler” insert of “Collected Warblings.” I’ve added a little graphic to accentuate that change. Second, the links are now a beautiful blue! Wow. Talk about progress.
Part of what spurred this change is that two of the websites I’m currently writing for on the side (www.2d-x.com and www.asktatjana.com) are both shutting down, and I needed to collect my posts from those sites for archiving purposes. While gathering those posts, I thought to myself: “self, maybe you should add some game reviews to The Warbler!” Then I thought: “Hey, The Warbler is a way, way better name!”
Good idea, self. Expect reviews of vidjagames in the future. Now that we’ve gotten the clerical matters out of the way, I can explain to you why, exactly, Peter V. Brett’s The Warded Man didn’t really work for me.
Let me first acknowledge that many of the issues I took with The Warded Man stem from the version I listened to, being the Graphic Audio production. For those who aren’t familiar, Graphic Audio (GA) is essentially a nouveau radio play, complete with sound effects, a plethora of voice actors, and modified text removing crucial bits of narration in favor of implications derived from cleverly mixed sound effects and overwrought voice acting, most of which, frankly, is not very fun to listen to. That being said, I think I’d like to try reading the actual book before passing final judgement on it, for reasons I’ll get to in just a moment.
The world of The Warded Man is an interesting one. It seems like low fantasy at first, a feeling that may have been exacerbated by the bumpkin accents applied thickly by the cast of the GA production. Theres something about the bumpkin accent in fantasy that really irks me, though, and I found myself already writing it off as annoying as soon as the book started. Then the demons arrived, and the book got my attention. The world is one in which, every night, demons materialize out of thin air and ruthlessly attack anyone outside of areas protected by painted (or carven) wards. This generates an upper limit on the technological and societal advancement of any society. Therein lies one of the more interesting elements of the world: how would different types of people (and different cultures) deal with the ever-present and utterly horrifying threat of vicious demons rising every night? Okay, so we have a pretty cool world.
The book has three main POV characters, and the transitions between them are unmarked, surprising, and frankly poorly executed in the Graphic Audio production. Suddenly, we are hearing about something completely different, with no chapter break of any kind to signal a change in scenery. The characters each go through a cliché hardship: watching their mother die while they couldn’t help, being harassed by the village and subsequently raped by brigands, watching their mother die while they couldn’t help (two separate characters go through it.) It’s likely that, again, the audio presentation made it seem so contrived, but it was aggravating. Here we have a cool world, and we go for the lowest hanging fruit in character development?
The three plots are disparate to start, but coalesce beautifully toward the end of the book. As a bonus, each of them remains independently exciting prior to their grand connection. Again, the lack of any meaningful indication that a POV is switching is really, really bad form, and the GA can’t have done a poorer job at this.
It seems that, outside of using clichés with character development, Mr. Brett also relies on standard fantasy tropes for a wide array of book features. What follows is a list of these elements:
- Arabs that are just totally crazy, and more than willing to kill themselves for a belief.
- Poorly treated women, with the exception of the crazy, perpetually lonely medicine woman.
- One invincible man with nothing left to lose, who refuses to love or let anyone in, because, like, he’s the only guy who can save the world or whatever.
- A scrappy bard with something to prove.
- A love triangle, further complicated by that one invincible guy’s code of honor.
Etcetera. I promise you this, friend. I’m going to read this book. On paper (or maybe a screen.) My prediction is that I’ll like it much more in that medium. It’s interesting to think about how a botched audio performance can really ruin a book for you though, isn’t it?